Open sourcing corporate IT

Greedy software companies may be in for a shock in 2013, especially if CIOs get serious about open source.

Just how and when technology will upend the traditional way of doing things is never an easy thing to predict. But reading the tea leaves can sometime open the doors to interesting possibilites. Earlier this month, Gartner presented their forecast of the business technology trends for 2013 and the technology analyst firm had a warning for software vendors.

According to Gartner's research director Darryl Carlton, software companies may be in for a surprise this year, especially if CIOs get serious about alternatives. One of Gartner's predictions for the IT industry this year is that Asian companies will drive a lot of the growth, with Indian, Chinese and Korean companies expected to see double digit employment growth while the rest of sector struggles.

One of the big areas of job growth will be in areas related to Big Data where job demand is expected to be 4.4 million jobs globally – however, Gartner only see a third of these positions being filled as employers face skills shortages.

Chinese brands will be one of the industry’s success stories in 2013 with Gartner expecting three of the five top mobile handset manufacturers to be vendors from the Middle Kingdom as cheap devices dominate the cheaper smartphone and tablet markets.

Those cheap devices will continue to drive smartphone and tablet adoption and as employees increasingly bring their own equipment to work, security will continue to occupy the minds of IT managers with Carlton predicting that employee owned equipment will suffer malware infections at twice the rate of corporate devices.

Social media is also expected to add risks to corporate data with Carlton seeing 40 per cent of enterprise contact information being leaked onto Facebook by 2017.

There is also a question who owns the data in the company CRM, “when a new employee arrives with 500 LinkedIn contacts – who owns that list?” Asks Darryl. 

Increasingly there is going to be a blurred line between public, private and corporate information which will test privacy laws and organisations’ policies.

Licensing grey zones

Also testing corporate policies is the problem of licensing. Carlton claims a number of businesses have had shocks when their software vendor has presented them with a big bill for remotely connected devices.

Many vendors are interpreting their licenses to cover every device that connects to their system or database, so each smartphone, remote PC or point of sale system that logs into the clients’ service is counted as an end user.

This can result in large bills for those with poorly drafted end user licenses and is something every CIO and IT manager should be checking closely in their software agreements, particularly for those using cloud services.

Perversely these strict interpretations of software licenses could backfire on the software vendors as Gartner sees this driving corporate IT staff towards considering open source alternatives which aren’t burdened with these complications.

While Gartner didn’t predict that open source software would have a greater presence on the corporate desktop – except on Android powered smartphones – exploring alternatives could be a useful tactics for CIOs looking countering overcharging and draconian licensing conditions.

Open Source software alternatives could also help address Australia’s software trade deficit – estimated at over $20 billion in 2009 by the Australian Computer Society.

Gartner’s predictions for 2013 aren’t anything surprising but they do emphasise the trends of the changing global tech industry. For CIOs and IT managers adapting to the new landscape is an essential career skill.